What makes Christmas? Father Christmas?
For me the real magic of Christmas happens on Christmas Eve.
I love everything about it.
For Christmas to be really Christmas for me it should be dark outside while inside we are making preparations for the next day.
Father Christmas is getting ready. I think I must have discovered the poem “Twas the Night before Christmas” when very young because it seems an important part of the festivities. . I can shut my eyes to what I don’t like about the commercial side of Christmas, (excessive spending, queuing on Boxing Day etc) and just focus on what I like.
Christmas is a symbol of giving for those of Christian faith, it induces a mild state of frenzy in most normal people and it happens at the darkest time of the year. So lights shine brightest. Much of the magic of Christmas is about seeing it through a child’s eyes. So the quintessential Christmas for me was when my children were younger.
I used to be a hardcore traditionalist. This meant that there was no long anticipation, everything happened on Christmas Eve as the light faded.
Everything happened on Christmas Eve.
As a family we would not put up the Christmas tree until the afternoon of Christmas Eve. The service of Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College chapel, would be on the radio, and mince pies would be cooking in the oven. That afternoon and evening we would put up the tree, decorate it, and wrap presents and put them under the tree.
I feel exhausted when I think of it now, but we had a special ritual as it got to the end of the day. Each of the four children in turn would wrap their presents – in secret with me – and then, finally they were put round the tree.
As the children got older this happened in the same room and behind the barrier of the sofa or another piece of furniture. There was much excitement about whose present was being wrapped, and a lot of not-so-subtle hints and red herrings about who was in the spotlight at any one time. Sellotape got everywhere and I would find short pieces, all scrunched up and abandoned, covering the legs and top of the table for weeks afterwards.
After supper and before bed we would ceremonially leave out a mince pie (and a glass of sherry) for Father Christmas, and of course, a carrot for Rudolph.
No matter what age they were we kept up the myth of F Christmas and his visit… which created an added bond when they actually knew. The children had stockings all the way through university and first jobs. In fact they have only just stopped now they have children of their own.
The stockings never seemed to get filled until about 11:30 at night, so we were rather tired. But the sherry, mince pie and carrot had to be attended to, and then the delivery itself minimising rustle and creaky floorboards.
I was talking to one of my daughters the other day, and she was marvelling that we did so much at the last minute. I felt the same. Nowadays Chrsitmas is a less intense time for me. We are a much larger family party – especially now there are five grandchildren – and we share the activities. And a lot happens before Christmas Eve itself!
But when I think about Christmas I do think of a magical time on Christmas Eve. Darkness outside, tree lights sparkling and the intense anticipation.
And of course, Father Christmas getting ready in the snow in the North Pole.